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Posted October 14, 2006
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Series: Moebius Man
Title: Storm in a Bottle
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: Stargate SG-1, Highlander. Dan'yel of Abydos may have had Daniel's questing spirit, but he had quickly been forced to leave Daniel's compassionate heart far behind him. 1700 words.
Spoilers: Stargate SG-1 through 8.20 "Moebius, Part II"; Highlander in general.
Not all of Daniel's dreams of ancient Egypt were as abrupt or painful as those that came to him first. Sometimes all he dreamed of were dim spans of time filled with the minutiae of daily living. They unspooled like old, faded motion pictures in his mind, filling in the background of a life that had spanned more than two thousand years. Very little of it surprised him; Dan'yel of Abydos may have lived a separate and very different life after his dislocation into the past, but he'd had Daniel's questing spirit and Daniel's experiences to build on.
Not all of his dreams were gently informative, bittersweet sections of tribal life, however. Some were immediate, full of hard, painful truths, and left him panting when he woke. Dan'yel of Abydos may have had Daniel's questing spirit, but he had quickly been forced to leave Daniel's compassionate heart far behind him.
Long stretches of time fly past, filled with planning, hiding, caching, grieving, and living. Daniel is no stranger to loneliness, but the part of him that is still eight and wailing for his lost parents is closer to the surface than it has been for many years. Women approach him periodically, for a myriad of reasons, but he turns each one down, seeing Sha'uri in every dusky face.
Even were his heart not so raw from his fresh losses, he does not dare risk leaving children behind to corrupt the timeline. The butterfly's wings might have already flapped, destroying his entire known future, but then again they might not, and risking everything just for a few moments of pleasure seems a lot like spitting in the eye of fate. Instead, Daniel perfects his recipe for moonshine, tipping a cup into the sand in memory of Skaara and Jack with every batch he makes.
The camp fluctuates in size as the seasons pass. Rumors of a rebel force attract others fleeing slavery, but also bring Jaffa determined to lethally enforce Ra's reign. Daniel keeps the rebellion more-or-less together through a series of skirmishes, retreats, and relocations, doing his best to recall tactics absorbed over years of following Jack, Teal'c, and Sam. It is nothing, and everything, like Abydos; he is teacher again and sage, but also military advisor and half of the governing council, and these may have become his people but they will never be his family.
He does not journal any more; his pencils and paper are long gone, and what would he write, anyway? The strictures of timeline preservation prevent him from recording the truth, and there are others already setting down the events of the rebellion for posterity. Among the camp's scholars is a young man, incongruously European of feature, who is very good at the job; Daniel sneezes every time they meet for some unfathomable reason, but speaks with him frequently enough to keep his languages in practice.
Methos reminds him of the man he used to be, before alien pyramids and military projects had rewritten his destiny.
Two years pass before Daniel meets another who sparks an allergic reaction; a vague pressure in Daniel's sinuses is followed by a fit of sneezing, leaving Katep to apologize and greet the new refugee in both of their names. The man does not bother to return the favor; as his eyes light on Daniel, he shouts [There can be only one!] and draws a sword from beneath his robes.
Fortunately, Daniel has long since given up going unarmed. Jack had begun the lesson, but life in a bronze age culture on the constant verge of war has greatly reinforced it. He, too, is carrying a sword, and hastily draws it in self-defense.
Most of Daniel's experience at swordfighting is a left-over from his college days, when he'd spent the occasional weekend as a herald and fighter in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Rattan weaponry does not have the same heft as the blade he wields now, however, and he has not practiced enough with the bronze sword to adjust to the difference; he is more used to wielding a staff or zat'ni'katel in actual battle. Fortunately, his opponent seems fairly unskilled; the man had probably not expected Daniel to have the chance to defend himself.
He and his attacker each collect several shallow cuts in the first few exchanges, minor wounds which magically sew themselves shut in tiny electrical spasms. Daniel has seen this in himself before, a near-instantaneous healing effect that leaves no scars behind, but this is the first time he has seen it at work in someone else. Either the Others have been very busy-- a notion that seems highly unlikely, given their hands-off policies-- or something else is at work here.
Sweat stings in Daniel's eyes, and muscles he hasn't truly stretched since his last hand-to-hand practice with Teal'c protest the strenuous exercise. He stumbles backward over a rug, nearly losing a hand as he flails for balance and comes within reach of the enemy's sword, and he wonders uneasily if the healing ability can regrow an unattached limb. It seems unlikely, but he has, after all, healed from worse: it is the most likely explanation for his revival after being struck by a staff blast in the failed rebellion.
The attacker swings clumsily at Daniel's neck, avoiding easier targets, and wondering shifts into suspicion. Beheading certainly would put an end to just about anything, including a Goa'uld, even one with access to a sarcophagus. With the seat of the mind separated from all means of life support, surely not even the strange healing energy could put a man back together.
[My head is not yours to take], Daniel exclaims, breathing heavily.
Katep makes a distressed noise from his place on the floor-- the newcomer had shoved him aside with the first lunge, and he'd fallen heavily. Daniel spares half a glance for his friend, then staggers backward again as the swordsman tries to take advantage of his distraction. A line of hot pain wells up along his side and he snarls in anger. He knows he won't win this by overthinking; he embraces the emotion, reaches for the furious focus he's so often employed against the Goa'uld.
Jack had called this state of mind 'snake-baiting' and deplored it, never mind that he'd succumbed to it himself a few times. Daniel isn't naive; he knows only too well where it could lead. He'll never forget the dream Shifu had sent him. Even so, it was just a tool like any other; it was the intent of the action that gave it moral weight and meaning. In this case, defense of self and tribe come above all else.
The nameless man parries wildly, trying to fend off Daniel's renewed attack, but it seems to be becoming clear to him that he has reached beyond his grasp. His eyes widen in fear as Daniel pierces his block to slice knee, thigh, and forearm, and he begins to babble fearfully in a dialect Daniel hasn't learned yet.
The former archaeologist neither cares, nor hesitates; caught in the driving, implacable grip of cold rage, Daniel divests the man of wrist, sword, and head in short order. The meaty thunk of blade passing through flesh and bone resonates queasily in his stomach; he takes a step back as the body collapses, telling himself that this is no different from the Goa'uld and Jaffa he has slaughtered in the name of war.
But of course it is different, and in more ways than the personal nature of the battle he has just fought: an electric mist is rising from the stump of the man's neck, spreading and reaching, lifting the hairs on the back of his arms.
Daniel drops his sword and whirls for the opening of the tent, yelling at Katep as his feet dig into the rug, one step away becoming two and then three. A nameless fear drives him, much as his anger did earlier.
There is no more time. A bolt of lightning stabs free of the cloud, reaching out to lick at Daniel's back; he screams as the energy rips through him, then falls to his knees as the lightshow continues. The air inside the tent fills with the scents of ozone and scorched canvas, but Daniel barely notices, caught up in series of foreign images crashing through his mind.
[They call this a Game?] he gasps, horrified, when the storm-in-a-bottle finally winds to a close. He is still kneeling, but the tent has caught fire and collapsed around him; there are voices to his left where the entrance was, where Katep had been sprawled when all Hell broke loose.
One of the voices sounds like Methos. Methos, to whom he is allergic; Methos, who must be like he is, like the attacker -- Iabi?-- whose soul had carried several others--
[I am legion], Daniel whispers, aghast, and shudders. He walls away as many of the foreign memories as he can, almost by instinct; it has not been that long since his mental war with Replicator Carter, and he has not forgotten the techniques he used to plunder useful knowledge from her while holding the rest apart.
He's going to have to have a long talk with Methos soon-- and find a better sword.
In the midst of his concentration, he hardly notices the blackness creeping in around the edges of his vision. It is not until he notices the chill and tingling in his extremities that he realizes the implications of the sword slash he received earlier. He touches his side clumsily, grimacing at the pain and the slick, warm wetness against his skin; the wound is wide and deep, and he has probably lost far too much blood for the Immortal healing talent to save him before he dies.
Daniel can only hope that Katep does not unearth him before he revives. He might have become used to the impermanence of death, but this is unusual even for him, and his mind is full of legends of how primitive cultures treat anyone tainted with the supernatural.
Sensory images of fire follow him down into the darkness, remnants of Iabi's last memories of his people.
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© 2006 Jedi Buttercup.